Author Archives: ari

The Apple iPad 9.7-inch 2018 model with Pencil as a writer’s tool

2018-05-21

The Apple iPad tablet is a familiar product for many writers and book lovers because of the ibooks application, and other apps on the tablet. Recently, Apple made the 2018 model of the 9.7-inch iPad compatible with the Pencil stylus that allows writing and drawing directly on the screen. How does the iPad help writers at their work?
Apple iPad 9.7 Pencil, woman drawing
During 2018, several new products have addressed the same scenario: a compact portable computer with a long battery life that allows people who read plenty of documents or books to read and to annotate those documents. Writing and drawing may have their own applications, but typically, the devices let users annotate directly on the document that is displayed on the screen.

It is now possible to choose between a tablet or an ereader that allows writing directly on the screen. The iPad 9.7 inch with Pencil represents tablets, and for instance, Remarkable, Sony DPT-CP1 and Onyx Boox Max 2 are ereaders that have a large screen and allow writing.

The interesting thing is that the 9.7 inch Apple iPad with Pencil costs less than the ereaders that come with a stylus. The start price for the iPad 9.7-inch 2018 is USD 329 plus USD 99 for the Pencil (total USD 428).
Apple iPad 9.7 tablet with Pencil stylus
In addition to writing and drawing directly on the screen, the stylus makes it easier to:

Select text
Move objects and text blocks
Highlight text
Annotate and mark documents

It depends on the application you are using which features the Apple Pencil has. The applications Apple has designed and included with the iPad have all the possible features whereas non-Apple apps may allow a subset of features.

Handwriting on the iPad screen with the Pencil feels different than writing with a pen on paper. The glass screen of the iPad and the plastic tip of the stylus establish a hard contact that may feel strange at first. Nonetheless, after a little practice, writing on the screen produces a result that everyone easily can recognize as your handwriting.

Many features are available for handwriting, like line thickness and shading. They can be achieved by tilting or holding the Pencil in a slightly different angle. For drawing, the iPad 9.7 inch 2018 model and the Pencil has many options. Artists and designers can use the tablet and the stylus for quickly drafting sketches. Also writers can easily draft schemas, symbols, and block diagrams that complement written notes.
Apple iPad 9.7 inch 2018, Pencil sketch message

Apple iPad or a 10-inch screen ereader?

A tablet is a multipurpose device. It is really a computer without a physical keyboard – and the iPad happens to be a very powerful computer. Writers who want a compact mobile computer for their research trips should find a tablet a useful tool. Having documents, notes, drafts, and sketches on the tablet and backed up to the cloud is valuable during a project.

Ereaders were originally designed for reading ebooks alone, but since the sharp grayscale screen and long battery life has converted many people to ereader users, companies like Sony and Onyx have designed devices that can be used for writing as well. Although it is possible to write on ereaders, like the Sony DPT-CP1 and Onyx Boox Max 2, they are still ereaders first. Still, writing and drawing on the screen of an ereader can be even more comfortable than on a tablet.

A review of the Apple iPad 9.7-inch with Pencil

Nathan of The Ebook Reader blog has recorded a balanced overview and comparison of the iPad against ereaders. Here is the video.

Apple iPad 9.7-inch 2018 model with Pencil key features and specifications

9.7-inch (diagonal) display with IPS technology. 2048-by-1536-pixel resolution (264 ppi, pixels per inch).
Display works with the Apple Pencil stylus.
A10 Fusion chip, 64-bit architecture. M10 coprocessor.
Rear camera: 8-megapixels, autofocus, panorama (up to 43 megapixels), HDR, exposure control, burst mode, timer, ƒ/2.4 aperture. 1080p HD video recording, slow‑motion at 120 fps, time-lapse, video stabilization.
Front camera: 1.2-megapixel photos, ƒ/2.2 aperture,720p HD video recording.
Wi-Fi.
Bluetooth 4.2
Cellular models can connect to 3G and 4G mobile networks.
GPS and Glonass satellite location.
Fingerprint sensor.
Operating system iOS 11.
Apple Pay.
Siri voice control system.
AirPlay connection to Apple TV.
Height: 9.4 inches / 240 mm, width: 6.6 inches / 169 mm, depth: 0.29 inch / 7.5 mm, weight: 1.05 pounds / 478 g.
Lithium-Polymer battery allows up to 10 hours of web, video and music over Wi-Fi connection.

Is the Sony DPT-CP1 ereader/writing tablet a tool for writers?

2018-04-23

People who read a lot tend to find ereader devices useful because the screen is visible even in sunlight and it doesn’t flicker. Writers have to read plenty of books and other texts. If an ereader existed that would allow using it for writing as well, wouldn’t it be a perfect tool for writers? Let’s see – Sony has introduced a device labeled DPT-CP1 that does exactly that.
Sony DPT-CP1 e-reader / writing tablet
Two key features make the Sony DPT-CP1 different from other ereader devices: it has a large 10.3-inch screen and it is possible to write and draw directly on the display using an included stylus. Well, there is a third factor that makes it different: the device can only open PDF documents.

How could writers make their works easier with a device like this? Nothing beats a keyboard when writing, but during the research phase of a project, Sony’s device could help.

My experience is that research activities produce documents that are saved on a computer’s hard drive, handwritten notes, photos, audio files, email messages, paper documents, and books. If I would use some time to convert all those text-based documents into PDF files, and transfer them to the Sony DPT-CP1, I would have a beautiful research library in one place. Then, reading and annotating the documents would be easy.
writing with stylus on Sony DPT-CP1 ereader
Sony has positioned the DPT-CP1 as an office device for professionals who can carry stacks of documents along in the device instead of carrying physical papers in a briefcase.

Other products that have been designed to be used in a similar way – reading and annotating documents – are the Sony DPT-RP1, Remarkable paper tablet, Onyx Boox Max 2 and Onyx Boox 96.
Sony DPT-CP1 as a large screen ereader (10.3 inches)

Sony DPT-CP1 key features and specifications

– 10.3 inch grey-scale screen. Touch sensitive (capacitive).
– Stylus for handwriting or drawing directly on the screen.
– Screen resolution 1404×1872, 227 dots per inch (DPI)
– Wi-Fi
– Bluetooth
– NFC
– Marvell(R)IAP140 64-bit Quad-core IoT Applications Processor
– Storage space 16GB
– USB port.
– Opens PDF documents only.
– Digital paper application for Windows, Macos, Android and iOS.
– Dimensions 174.2 × 243.5 × 5.9 mm
– Weight 240 gr.

The Sony DPT-CP1 ereader/writing tablet is available in Japan in June 2018, and after that it is expected to ship to other markets. The price in Japan is about USD 650.
Sony DPT CP1 for reading and annotating PDF documents

Talk to Books artificial intelligence service finds good reads from Google Books

2018-04-16

Google has many projects where the company develops artificial intelligence services for tasks that some day will help both businesses and daily life of ordinary people. One of Google’s research projects, Talk to Books, can help book readers and writers to find a good read they perhaps didn’t know existed.

Google AI service: Talk to Books, home screen
In a nutshell, here is how Talk to Books online service works at the moment. Type a sentence that describes the problem you have or what you are looking for. It is important to type a sentence, not keywords alone. The principle how Talk to Books works is different from a search engine that only finds matches for keywords.

The big difference and big promise of artificial intelligence (AI) software is that it can, to a certain extent, determine meanings. With Talk to Books, the AI system breaks the typed sentences into vectors using a hierarchy of parameters. The system has been trained and is supposed to develop further with time. Google Research Blog explains the method in more detail.

Once the AI system behind Talk to Books has determined what you want, it searches 100,000 books in Google library, looking for content that discusses the theme you are concerned with. Then, the service spits out its suggestions to you.
Google Talk to Books answers questions with books
I tried Talk to Books. The first questions I asked were relatively short. I received poor answers. Then I wrote longer descriptions what I wanted, and lo and behold, I got answers that I actually could use (like, I logged on to a bookstore to see if a suggested book was available as an ebook – it was so interesting).
Google Talk to Books artificial intelligence service finds books
As Ray Kurzweil, a visionary and technology pioneer, who now works for Google, said responses from Talk to Books may surprise you. The system can find something you didn’t know existed but is relevant for your question.

This is obviously one of the first steps in using artificial intelligence in a way that directly helps writers and readers. I would expect that the system is built so that it improves its answers as users feed in more questions. Of course, if Google expands the catalog of books that provide answers, they improve as well. For instance, travel related questions are not worth asking at the moment.

Consider your privacy, however, when you ask questions from a Google service.

How to read ebooks without installing any additional applications on your PC

2018-03-26

Recently, one of my neighbors asked how she could read the ebook she had bought from a store. She had managed to download the book, but there was no way to open it. As many of us do in a hurry to start reading a new book, she had simply ignored all the prompts to download an ebook reader application to her device. Well, the problem was quickly solved once we installed a reader application for her. Microsoft has taken a step towards easier ebook experience by including ebook reading into the Edge browser application.

The thing is that every Windows 10 computer comes with the Microsoft Edge browser application that includes the feature to read ebooks.

ebook table of content in Mircosoft Edge browser
If your Microsoft Edge can not open EPUB ebooks, ensure your system has received all the security and feature updates from Microsoft.

This is how you can instantly verify if Microsoft Edge browser on your computer can open ebooks.

Open File Explorer.
Locate the EPUB ebook you want to open on your device.
Right-click on the EPUB file.
Select Open with.
Select Microsoft Edge. If it is not on the list, click Choose another app, and look for Edge.

The ebook should open in a tab in the Microsoft Edge application. If the book doesn’t open, the chances are that you are trying to read a copy-protected (DRM-locked) ebook. The rule of thumb is that ebooks bought and downloaded from a bookstore are copy-protected (you can always read them in the app the store provides), but free ebooks are not locked (and can be read in any EPUB ebook app). Kindle ebooks are a different story altogether, but the rule of thumb is that you can read them only in Kindle devices and apps.

In addition to non-DRM, not copy-protected ebooks you can download ebooks from the Microsoft Store to the Edge browser. It is still early days for ebooks on the Microsoft Store, which means that ebooks are not yet available in many countries at all.

Once you have an ebook in the Microsoft Edge, you can use the following useful features as you read a book.

Open the table of contents and jump to a page you want. Click the leftmost icon on the black bar above the book.
read aloud (TTS) in Microsoft Edge
Let the application read the book aloud to you. Click the loudspeaker icon on the black bar above the book.
highlight, make notes in ebook in Windows 10 Edge browser
Highlight or underline text. Select a section of text, and a small tool window opens up. You can also write notes that are attached to the position you selected.
change ebook font size in Windows 10 reader app Edge
Change font and font size. Choose A-icon, and you will see the options.
search any text in ebook in Edge browser EPUB reader in Windows 10
Search any text in a book. Click the magnifying glass and type your keywords.
Bookmark pages.

Especially, read aloud is a useful new feature in an ebook reading app. You can turn an EPUB ebook into an audiobook simply by asking the Edge browser to read it to you. At the moment, three voices are available for choosing which one pleases your ears the most. Edge can read web pages as well, so you can listen to articles you discover on the internet.

Books have destroyed our civilization multiple times if we believe the wise men of the past

2018-03-19

There is nothing better than laughing at mistakes other people have made. BBC put together an infographic with famous predictions gone wrong. Here are the highlights from the compilation that relate to books and communication technologies.
clip art cartoon: old man with papyrus and young man with mobile phone and computer
Circa 370 B.C.
Socrates predicted that the written word will destroy our memories. Men will cease to exercise memory because they rely on what is written.
Yet, the world can remember what he said because Plato wrote it down.

1492
Monk Johannes Trithemius wasn’t happy about the new innovation: printing press. He worried about the future of his profession because Gutenberg had invented a machine that could print books. Monks who earned a living as scribes had to find something else to do.

1545
Swiss scholar Conrad Gesner worried that too many books in the world is perilous. Confusing and harmful abundance of books seriously bothered him.

1685
More than hundreds year later, after many books had surely been printed with new machines, French scholar Adrien Baillet wrote that he had a reason to fear that a multitude of books would drive humankind into barbarous state.

1879
A new invention, telephone, had arrived in England where the Head of the Post Office regarded the new device useless. Relaying messages with the help of messenger boys was the proper way to communicate for him.

1883
Just like books used to be a threat to powerful people in ancient times, because ordinary people could actually learn something, public education was seen as a threat at the end of the 19th century. New York Medical Journal warned that public education would exhaust the children’s brains and nervous systems.

1929
Telephone continued its inevitable conquest across the world, and was seen as a threat to the society. San Francisco Catholic Adult Education Committee worried: does the telephone break up home life and the old practice of visiting friends?

1936
Another relatively new invention, radio, was too much for the music magazine Gramophone. Children have developed the habit of dividing attention between the humdrum preparation of their school assignments and the compelling excitement of the loudspeaker, the magazine concluded.

1959
Although there were not many computers in the entire world at the time, mathematician I.J.Good believed in artificial intelligence (AI). He thought all work could be handed over to machines in 10-30 years.

1964
Arthur C. Clarke, one of the most successful science-fiction authors, predicted the rise of remote work and digital nomads accurately. He even got the popular nomad destination, Bali, right. Clarke thought that in 50 years, we can work remotely.

1975
The buzzword Paperless Office appeared on an article in BusinessWeek. Well, it is kind of happening now. The magazine article predicted that all office information would be digital by 1990. The consumption of paper, however, started to decrease in US offices in 2001.

1995
Robert Metcalfe, one of the pioneers of the Internet estimated that the network will catastrophically collapse in 1996. He had to eat his words in 1997 in front of an audience where he mixed his column into water and drank it.

The list of false predictions is endless. It is only the predictions by famous people that went horribly wrong which will live long after the world has moved on. It is also easy to find parallels between ancient and recent studies and research papers that conclude how evil a new invention is.

How many times have I seen the story that reading a book from a screen rots our brains. How many children have been doomed to damnation because they use social media. How many times has it been proved that only the “smell of book” and “holding a book” improves learning when studying something – instead of reading an ebook. How many studies indicate that the Internet is destroying our memories.

All right, I will make one prediction. Now that audiobooks and voice control are growing strongly, the backlash will be in 2019: no one can learn by listening to a book, you have to read it.

Pocketbook Inkpad 3 ereader can read ebooks aloud to you

2018-02-19

Ereaders with larger than six inches displays made a breakthrough in 2017, and we expect the trend to continue developing further. Ereader vendor Pocketbook already has a few large-screen models available, but the Inkpad 3 comes with sharp E ink display, advanced frontlight features, and a text-to-speech facility.
Pocketbook Inkpad 3 with frontlight, 7.8 inch display
The greyscale screen of the Pocketbook Inkpad 3 is 7.8 inches in size with 300 dots per inch (DPI) resolution, making it a sharp display. The 7.8-inch size seems to have become quite common, for instance, Kobo is using the same size in some of its e-reader models.

Advanced features in the display include a frontlight that automatically can adjust the level of light so that it is pleasant for reading. It can also adjust the temperature of the light. You may rely on the automatic settings, or tune all the features of the frontlight to your liking.
Pocketbook Inkpad 3: reads aloud ebooks, text-to-speech
Audiobooks are likely to find new friends along with a feature included in the Inkpad 3: the ereader can read aloud all ebooks you have already downloaded (and, of course, all the new ones). You don’t have to buy and download large audiobook files, but you can tell the ereader to read any ordinary ebook (EPUB) to you. The difference with traditional audiobooks is that a person is not reading the text, but a computer. The quality of computer voices have greatly improved, and, for instance, I can today listen to it comfortably (a couple of years ago, I couldn’t).

The Pocketbook Inkpad 3 comes with Wi-Fi connectivity that lets you access a number of cloud services, like Dropbox. This feature makes it more convenient to download ebooks because every file doesn’t have to go through a computer.

The ereader is light – only 210 grams. Its dimensions are 195 mm x 136 mm x 8 mm.

8 GB storage space for ebooks and other files is located inside the device, and more space can be added by inserting a microSD memory card (up to 32 GB) into a card slot. The Inkpad has 1GB of RAM and a Dual Core (2×1 GHz) processor.

The features of the Pocketbook Inkpad 3 indicate that it won’t fit into the lowest price category of ereaders. Product pricing and availability can be checked at Amazon and at company’s web page here.

Here is an article that introduces a number of other large screen ereaders.

Via Klaava.fi.
Pocketbook Inkpad 3 e-reader, back panel

A backup device for traveling photographers, video creators, and writers

2018-01-25

On the road, it is essential to make a backup copy of all new photos, video clips and text documents as soon as possible. LaCie has introduced a rugged, battery-powered backup disk designed to be used without a laptop wherever you may be. The key feature is that it is possible to make a backup directly from a camera, phone or drone without a laptop.

Lacie DJI Copilot backup disk
LaCie DJI Copilot is a strange name for a backup hard drive, but the manufacturer has wanted to emphasize the mobility, ruggedness and storage space of the product. It has 2TB of space. The thinking behind the name is that you can take the hard drive along to a field trip, fly your drone (or take a ton of photos with your camera), shoot all the video you want and instantly create a backup on the hard drive.

If you have a camera, drone, smartphone or a laptop with files you want to backup, you can use one of the cables that come with the LaCie hard drive or insert a memory card into the device and create a backup copy.
Lacie DJI Copilot backup disk 2TB, portable battery-powered, rugged
The LaCie DJI Copilot also has its own smartphone application. Connect the smartphone to the LaCie with a cable, and you can view the contents of the drive. A really useful feature in the smartphone app is that you can rename files and delete unwanted images. A dull moment at an airport or time stuck in traffic can be used for something beneficial.

In the US, the product is priced at USD 350, and in Europe at EUR 400 at the moment. For 2TB worth of storage, it is a pricey product. It is possible to purchase an external hard drive with the same amount of storage space for EUR/USD 100, but they are not portable, and a PC is required for making backups.

Tips for traveling professional for surviving without internet access on the road in this article.
Lacie dji copilot 2tb hard disk, portable
The LaCie DJI Copilot product package includes:

– 2TB hard drive
– MicroSD memory card adapter
– Two types of USB cables for PCs, phones and cameras
– Lightning cable for Apple devices
– Charger

Tips for finding a place to work and sleep in Algarve, on the south coast of Portugal

2018-01-03

These tips were written with digital nomads and remote workers in mind, but the travel guide where the tips have been extracted from (Algarve, Southern Portugal) features much more information on accommodations, sights, beaches, villages, culture, activities, food, and towns.
Carvoeiro, Algarve, PortugalHouses on the coastal cliffs of Algarve, Portugal.
Professionals who can work anywhere as long as the supply of electricity and decent Internet access are guaranteed have discovered Algarve’s pleasant climate and peaceful lifestyle. Lisbon and Porto are the business centers of Portugal, but the whole point of staying in Algarve is to manage a business remotely.

Even though the region lacks big cities, the largest towns have nightlife, and popular pubs have crowds from lunch time onwards. Internet access in coastal towns is relatively reliable, but having a backup connection, like a mobile data connection for Internet access, is imperative.

A wide range of hotels and holiday homes are available for short and long term stay in Algarve. If you want to stay in large towns, like Albufeira, Lagos, or Portimao, the chances are that the best selection and best prices are for rooms in apartment blocks. Townhouses, bungalows, and other types of places with a terrace or a small garden are easier to find in small towns or villages, such as Luz or Carvoeiro. In addition, villas are available for rent on the outskirts of towns and in the countryside.

Many apartment blocks built for tourism come with a community pool. In winter, the pool may be closed. Another nice feature with recently-built apartment blocks is that they tend to have spacious balconies. For instance, a place where I stayed on the outskirts of Albufeira was a one-bedroom apartment with three balconies. The kitchen, living room, and bedroom had their own balconies.

If you love to watch television, here is an important tip. Verify the channels that can be viewed in the place you are going to stay. If it is only RTP (Portugal’s public broadcaster), you may have to do something other than watch television during your stay. I stayed one month in a place with only RTP channels, and I could only find one show that I could understand and watch: “The Voice of Portugal” singing contest every Sunday.
apartments for tourists in Albufeira, AlgarveApartments for tourists in Albufeira.
If you are looking for a place to stay and work for a few weeks, month, or more, I recommend getting in touch with local real estate agents. First, book a place for a few days only – perhaps via an online service. It will be your base while you search for a long-term place. You should have an idea of the area where you want to stay. If not, hire a car and drive along the bumpy roads of Algarve and explore. Once you have decided on the area, contact a real estate agent in that particular district. They will show you the places available at your price level. For instance, I once dealt with an agent who handled the maintenance and rentals of apartments for entire buildings in a particular section of a town.

The important thing in this whole process is that you actually see the place before you pay. The big, ugly problem with booking a long-term stay via an online service is that you have to pay without seeing the place. When you open the door, step in, and find that it is not like the web pages, you have already lost. In that situation, the only thing you can decide is what kind of loss you are going to take: money, time, or both. Maybe you grit your teeth and decide to stay, demand reimbursement from the landlord, or negotiate with the online service. In any case, you are going to lose precious working time with the hassle – and even more time if you have to start searching for new place to stay.

The better way is to research the area, contact an agent, and ask the agent to show you the place you intend to rent.

Even if the apartment where you are going to stay comes with Internet access, always get a backup connection. This is ridiculously easy to accomplish. Walk in to a mobile phone shop (for instance, Phone House) or a mobile network operator shop (MEO, NOS or Vodafone), ask for a data only SIM card, and choose your initial data amount. There are no formalities. After you have used the initial amount of data, you can top up online, at an ATM, or in a post office. I managed to top up my SIM card at a post office (cash only accepted).

book cover image: Algarve, Southern Portugal
The travel guide Algarve, Southern Portugal is available in all major bookstores, such as Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks, and Kobo.

Algarve, Southern Portugal travel guide

Publishing year 2017 in review: trends, analysis, developments

2017-12-16

It is not business as usual in the world of digital media. Ebooks and other digital media content products are still taking their first steps in the global and local markets. Many things in book business and digital technology changed in 2017 and will change in the coming years. It is only 10 years since the launch of Amazon Kindle, but 500 years from Gutenberg’s invention.

Book as a concept has proven it has its place – independent of the format. Year 2017 didn’t challenge that, although new ways of enjoying a book became more popular. The following key development points in publishing are reviewed primarily from the digital side of book publishing.

a speaker and audience at Frankfurt book fair

Ebook markets continue to grow

One publishing industry expert claims that the ebook market is shrinking, whereas another expert says it is growing. Both experts can be right when they only look at their own data sources. Big US publishers have lost ebook market share to small publishers and self-publishers. No one knows the actual sales numbers of indie publishers and self-publishers, but one can always estimate, and it looks like a large, growing market that is eating market share from big publishers.

Data collected from other than English-language markets indicate a healthy and innovative digital market development, for instance, in Continental Europe, Spanish-language markets and China. Even France is accepting ebooks and ereaders.

Audiobook is the fastest growing format

Book lovers in English-speaking markets are familiar with Audible audiobooks, but in many others parts of the world, Swedish startup Storytel is the reason for rapid growth of audiobooks. Storytel has been so successful that it has acquired traditional books publishers in order to secure rights for as many books as possible.

A key development that will have an effect on audiobook market is computer applications that can read aloud texts. They may be individual applications running on a tablet or smartphone, or voice assistants, like Alexa or Siri. The technology is pretty good already, and as it develops, it may lower product prices.

Attempts to automate writing may be more common than we are aware of

For years, we have heard of projects that have tried to automate the reporting of sports results and simple news reports. Meanwhile, the development of artificial intelligence (AI) software has reached a level where it can be applied to simple writing tasks. The Washington Post is already using a robot writer, and clever programmers have created an algorithm that can imitate Harry Potter fiction.

Should a writer be worried? No. Someone must produce the source material for writing robots and review their output, among other things.

Ereaders are still here and still wanted by avid readers

I am the first one to admit that I expected tablets and large screen smartphones (phablets) to replace ereaders as ebook reading devices, but it hasn’t happened. In some markets, like the US and the UK, people who want an ereader already have one or two, and the market is saturated. In many other large markets, such as Germany, France, Spain and China, the market for ereaders is growing because the market for ebooks is still growing.

A key development during 2017 was the emergence of large screen ereaders. Devices from 7 to 13 inches are now available. Some of these have a stylus for making it easy to jot down notes on documents and books. A development path from one purpose device (reading ebooks) to a device that is designed for working with documents maybe going on.

Reading has moved to mobile devices

An ereader and a tablet is a mobile device, but the big hype of recent years has been reading on smartphone screens. Wattpad, a reading and writing community of young generations, says about 90% of its users read on mobile devices.

Digital reading is most popular from 5-inch smartphone screens to 10 tablet screens. It means that fixed layout ebooks still face challenges that reflowing ebooks can manage.

EPUB3 didn’t take off (and probably won’t next year, either)

Two ebook formats dominate the digital book markets: Amazon’s proprietary Kindle format and the industry standard EPUB. The advanced, multimedia-enabled EPUB3 ebook format was announced years ago, but is hasn’t made a commercial breakthrough. In February 2017, the organization behind EPUB, IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum), was merged into the W3C (the organization that sets the standards for the World Wide Web). New working groups, committees and strategies have been formed, and the result is that a high level agreement for the next standard EPUB4 is in the works. EPUB4 is defined as a subset of Portal Web Publication that merges HTML and EPUB.

The euphoria of self-publishing is settling down

In large English-language markets, a small number of self-publishers have made it big. Their books have been produced into successful Hollywood movies and publishers are competing for their next manuscripts. The laws of economics haven’t changed, however, as indie authors are discovering that it is just as difficult to write a bestseller as it was before. Interest in self-publishing may be settling down in the US, but in many other large markets, such as Spanish-speaking countries, Continental Europe or in China, self-publishing is only beginning to take off.

Newspapers and magazines that have reinvented themselves are making it

Attempts to turn a newspaper or magazine web site visitors into subscribers who pay for the digital content on a web site have largely failed. Only a few strongest brands have become successful when they have started to charge readers for digital content. Newspapers and magazines, like The New York Times and The Economist deliver so much value to readers that visitors are willing to pay for news stories, and especially, long reports, analysis and background stories of major events. Some other publications have discovered their own strategies for thriving in the digital era while maintaining their valuable printed heritage.

Smart computer applications automatically write news, scientific papers and even Harry Potter sequels

2017-12-13

Long before the term artificial intelligence (AI) was invented, clever computer programmers tried various methods to automatically produce texts for different purposes. Early attempts have been unsuccessful, but now, technology has developed so much that serious attempts for automating the writing of news reports and scientific papers are underway. What does it mean for authors?

keyboard on fire
Computer-generated brief news reports are perhaps more widely used than we are aware. For instance, The Washington Post newspaper is using a news robot called the Heliograf.

The robot working for the newspaper is not fully autonomous, but writes reports in cooperation with news editors. The editors have created templates for political news stories that feature key phrases for particular events, like elections. Heliograf is connected to a source of structured data where it can access the required data for reporting. The robot searches the database, matches the discovered relevant data with the corresponding phrases in the template, and inserts the data into the template for publishing a news report.

It is not a coincidence that the Heliograf robot was developed and taken into use after Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, took over the newspaper. With the help of the robot, The Washington Post wants to publish more news stories that can reach small local audiences that previously were out-of-reach for a major newspaper.

SciNote, an enterprise that provides scientists cloud services where they can store all their notes, papers, references, ideas – anything that has to do with their research has also chosen the human-robot collaboration method for its automatic writing application. Slate talked to the people behind the Scinote’s software technology and found out that already 20 000 scientists use the company’s cloud service.

Manuscript Writer is Scinote’s automatic tool for drafting a scientific paper from pieces of data. The data must be structured and organized by the researcher for the Manuscript Writer to be able to do its job, but that’s exactly what Scinote’s cloud service enforces researchers to do. The result from the Manuscript Writer is a draft paper for further work, review and editing.

A community known as Botnik has developed a writing application that can automatically continue your work once you feed the robot enough source material for analysis. That’s how Botnik has written a sequel for Harry Potter, TV show manuscripts, advertisements, and other texts. Below a page from Botnik’s Potter adaptation (photo by Botnik.org).
Botnik bot writer, Harry Potter variation, photo by Botnik.org

Most writers (and all internet users) use artificial intelligence applications daily without paying any attention to them. A search engine is a very clever piece of technology that constantly learns more about you and what you want in order to return better search results. Facebook and other social media services constantly follow and listen to you in order to tailor their newsfeeds and ads to match your desires.

The software algorithms used in writing robots and in social media services know what to do because they have enough data to start their work, and when they are fed with more data, they can improve the results.

Can a robot write books like The Lord of the Rings, Catch 22 or The Innovator’s Dilemma? No. At the moment, a robot can write something where the results are known in advance (a fixed number of possible outcomes), and the robot fills in the key data; a robot organizes a large set of data into a document; or produces variations derived from an existing source text.

Here is a big 13.3-inch ereader that can also be used as a PC monitor

2017-12-09

A new application has emerged for ereader devices that originally were intended for reading ebooks alone: they are also used as secondary monitors for PCs. So far, tech-savvy PC users have had to hack an ereader to plug it into a computer as a monitor, but now, the Onyx Boox Max 2 provides the feature out-of-the box.
Onyx Boox Max 2 ereader and PC monitor
The Onyx Boox Max 2 is a big ereader with a 13.3-inch E ink screen. A device like this is optimal for reading PDF documents and PDF books (the product can open all common ebook file formats). The Max 2 has been developed with this in mind – it lets users write and draw on the screen with a stylus. The device can also be used like an ordinary touch screen device by touching the screen with fingers.

One more key feature that at the moment separates the Max 2 from competitive products, like the Sony DPT-RP1, is the HDMI port that lets you plug the Max2 into a PC and use it as a secondary PC monitor.

People who stare a monitor their entire work day or can’t setup their PC displays for ideal lighting conditions, can greatly benefit from a E ink screen that doesn’t flicker and provides high contrast. It is, of course, a grayscale display without even the possibility to watch videos – perhaps an important feature for easily distracted workers.
Onyx Boox Max 2 e-reader with stylus for handwriting and drawing on screen
The Onyx Boox Max 2 is available in a few online stores for 800 Euros. The official Onyx stores are listed on the company’s web page.

The product is shipping to customers, some of whom have had time to record hands-on videos of the Max 2. Here is one:

As the video and the reviewer’s reply to questions on YouTube indicate, there are some teething problems in the product that may cause problems for some users, but may not affect others.

Onyx Boox Max2 key features and specifications

13.3-inch E Ink Carta display. Made of plastic, it is light and flexible.
Resolution 2200×1650 pixels, 16 levels of grey.
High contrast 15:1.
Electromagnetic (WACOM) and capacitive dual touch screen. With the included stylus it is possible to write and draw on the screen. The capacitive layer allows touching and controlling the screen with fingers, just like using it as a tablet.
Four buttons: Menu, Back, Next Page and Previous Page.
WIFI
Bluetooth 4.0
1.6 GHz quad-core processor.
2GB RAM + 32GB of storage space.
Android 6.0 operating system software.
HDMI port for connecting the ereader to a PC as a secondary monitor.
Speaker and microphone.
3.5mm audio port for text-to-speech, playing music or audio books.
Ebook and document formats: PDF, EPUB, TXT, MOBI, CHM, DJVU, HTML, RTF, FB2, DOC, PDB. Audio: MP3, WAV.
7.5 mm thin.
Weight 550g
4100mAH lithium-polymer battery. Up to 4 weeks of standby time.

Onyx Boox Max 2 e-reader and computer monitor

Via The Verge.

For writers who like to jot down notes with pen and paper: Smart Moleskine paper notebook connects with PCs

2017-11-29

Even today, when practically every writer is carrying a powerful computer in their pocket, many like to write notes, ideas and short texts on paper. A common tip from seasoned authors to novices is to always carry a (paper) notebook and a pen along. Now, Moleskine has introduced a product that lets writers use pen and paper, but conveniently connects paper to the power of computers.
MOleskine Smart Writing Set with tablet
The concept behind Moleskine’s writing system that connects paper with computers is to let writers freely write, scribble, and draw their notes on paper, and automatically transfer all those notes to a smartphone, tablet or PC. If the writer is near his or her computer, the transfer of notes happens at the same time as the pen touches the paper. If the writer is separated from her computing device, the notes are stored in the Moleskine pen and automatically transferred to the computing device once reunited.

The Moleskine Smart Writing Set product consists of three elements:

1. A paper notebook. It looks and can be used like an ordinary Moleskine notebook but it has some special features for use with the Smart Writing system.
2. A pen with a standard replaceable ink fill. It can be used as an ordinary pen for writing on paper, but it can also wirelessly connect to a smartphone, tablet, or computer via Bluetooth.
3. An application for a smartphone, tablet or PC that connects and interacts with the pen.

The Moleskine ink pen connects via Bluetooth
All the elements are included in the Moleskine Smart Writing Set that costs $199. The product has been available since 2016 for smartphones and tablets, and in 2017, it has also become available for Windows 10 devices. The Moleskine Notes app must be downloaded from the Apple App Store, Google Play or Microsoft Store to the device that connects with the pen.

There are many features in the Moleskine Smart Writing product that let writers enhance their notes, such as recording voice memos, applying colors to notes, but for a writer who jots down more than a couple of lines of text, the key feature is transcribing. The application on a PC can turn handwriting into digital words that can be further processed in a writing application.

Moleskine’s tutorial video below shows how the system works with a tablet, but the functionality is the same on a PC or a smartphone.

There are other similar products, like Wacom or Livescribe in the market that are priced lower than the Moleskine Smart Writing Set, but the products also have many differences in features and functionality.

For writers who prefer handwriting, another option is the use a tablet, such as the Apple iPad, Samsung Tab, or Microsoft Surface to write directly on the screen with a stylus. It is not the same as paper, but the technology has developed quite close mimicking the paper and pen experience.
Moleskine smart writing set connects to Windows 10 PC
The Moleskine Smart Writing Set product contains:
– Paper Tablet (notebook) dotted with special paper designed to work with Pen+ in dotted layout. (Once the pages have been used, you must purchase a new one with the special paper for it to work with the pen).
– Pen+ smart pen.
– 1 pen tip ink refill.
– USB cable for recharging the pen.

Via The Verge.